Wastelands of Suburbia

A place where the cast-off ephemera of the last four generations comes to rest, and is discussed fondly....Like junk, or the injection-molded minutiae of history? Welcome home...Junkyards, yard sales, roadside oddities, thrift stores and more-your memories are deep inside the box, so keep shaking.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Government Surplus...

For me, it started with an ad in a magazine-maybe even a comic book. "Jeeps for $44 from the US Government!!" was the line. I imagined, as a teen, making more than enough mowing lawns all summer to afford a four-wheel-drive vehicle to show up with on the first day of my sophomore year of high school. I imagined myself taking friends, and more importantly, girls, on long weekend camping trips on the hundreds of acres of undeveloped land in my town and surrounding area. I would, like Magellan, discover yet-uncharted paradises in my own backyard.

There were the rumors, of course, the stuff of urban legend-the jeeps were sawed in half, as part of the demilitarization process-I'd have to weld it back together, I was told by more than one "wise" individual. Same went for the thousands of Harley Davidson Army motorcycles still allegedly crated up in a government warehouse somewhere (probably that big warehouse in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", where they stashed the Ark of The Covenant, I thought, and probably the Roswell UFO and the alien corpses...!!), I'd never get something pristine, there would have to be a catch.

As a young adult, I managed to track down the necessary numbers and addresses to contact the DRMO, the deparment responsible for government auctions. Back then, in the early 1990s, it was still a bit of a pain in the ass. You had to make some calls, write some letters, register as a bidder and eventually show up at the site and bid in person. I managed to get credentials for myself and my buddy Jason. Jason had a box truck for his business, which would let us no doubt haul home the infinite amounts of booty we would score. I imagined not only my jeeps, but flight helmets, aircraft parts, weapons, and God knows what else. You can imagine our disappointment to find at our local army base only desks, woefully outdated computers, the odd mismatched piece of canvas and acres and acres of impossible to identify field communications equipment. We never went back...as we drove out, sullen, I noticed for the first time all the military gear was being painted desert tan...."Hmm", I thought, "we must be getting ready to spend some time in the Middle East".

In 2006, it's the same, but different-the equipment has been painted green, and then tan again as we remain hunkered down in Iraq. My hometown is developed to the point of Suburbia with McMansions and the self-superior attitudes of their inhabitants... Jason has made himself wealthy over the last 15 years and traded his truck for a new Land Rover....

There are still government auctions, but luckily for me, they are as easy to register and bid on as Ebay. The only real catch is picking up your winnings. For me, however, that's all part of the fun.

I discovered Government Liquidation in one of my infinite threads of searching the web late one night. A blurb on another site mentioned it, and how easy it was to basically bid on and buy whatever the government was offerering. A quick hop over to www.govliquidation.com and I was registered to bid. I began to search the huge site-auctions are ongoing all the time, in every area of the country, including Hawaii and Guam.

You can find anything from a pop rivet (OK, 10,000 pop rivets maybe) to retired sea vessels, aircraft, and vehicles. The aircraft is demilitarized-you can buy an FA-18 Hornet, but it's gonna be darn well chopped up before you leave with it. Watercraft consists of everything from recreational rowboats to naval tugs, most still seaworthy. Vehicles are varied, from officer's staff cars to pickups, the diesel Blazers and Chevy trucks, to full size Deuce and a Half 6x6 trucks, on to loaders, forklifts, and airfield fire trucks. There are, however, still no jeeps, really-most military jeeps are long dead, or in the hands of civilian collectors. Occasionally, parts for them come up.

The Jeep's replacement, the HMMWV, or Hummer as we know it, is supposedly the center of a similar controversy and is never for sale. Story has it, American General, the Hummer's manufacturer, gave the military explicit instructions not to sell the vehicles through the DRMO-allegedly they felt a glut of HumVees on the market would take away buyers from their plus-$100,000 civilian Hummers. They have mostly been torch-cut in half like the jeeps of urban legend. That may soon change, as the military is rapidly in development to replace the HumVee, and American General has, I"ve been told, ceased production of the H1. Plan on seeing a bunch of military HumVees on the market soon. Some have snuck out, I've heard stories of less-than-honest soldiers driving them off base and taking them to the local pawn shop that buys vehicles with no title. I've seen them at military collector shows and on Ebay. But I still don't have my army jeep.

I have, however bid on things like digital projectors, welders, tools and automotive repair and diagnostic equipment, as well as good old surplus like uniforms and personal gear. My best find so far were two MIG wire welders I purchased for $50 a piece, that I sold for $600 a piece on Ebay. I have also made a brisk business of selling a few digital projectors for those building a home theater-why pay $600 for a $600 projector at Staples or Best Buy when you can buy a $21,000 projector from me for $300? I have my own personal home theater set up with a $4000 Sharp projector I paid less than $200 for-it works, and has worked great from day one.

Upon winning your item you have two choices-pick it up in person or have one of several shipping companies who work with Govermnent Liquidation pick it up, and ship it to you at your cost. This can all be done with nothing more than your PC and a phone. I buy from two bases, one just twenty minutes away, and the other about two hours. Provided you don't look of Middle Eastern descent or like Tim McVeigh's brother, a few pictures and your ID and signature are sufficient for clearance on the bases. I have used my pickup for some items, but most of what I buy is easily stored in my 1994 Grand Marquis's trunk.

How does this all relate to The Wasteland? Basically, for me, it's the world's largest online junkyard, another place to examine and potentially purchase the detritus of history, the forgotten flotsam and jetsam of the ages. A piece of aircraft may indeed have played a part in the space program, or an important military campaign. Something may have been purchased and sat, brand new, in a warehouse in anticipation of a conflict that never materialized. At the very least, it's a way to defray the cost of your taxes by purchasing top-grade merchandise at pennies on the dollar. But sorry, no Jeeps.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man U are a friggen genius! Iam bookmarking your page. Now I know what to do with all that stuff that hubby packrat brings home! LOL

8:06 AM  
Blogger William said...

Same here, great Blog! Keep at it, I love to use forgotten and old stuff, It reminds me of better times! And it just makes smart money sense.

5:22 AM  

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